The Portuguese winger is to be the subject of a £20 million approach from Arsene Wenger next month, The Sun claims, with the Gunners seeing the 26-year-old as the perfect replacement for Theo Walcott.
Nani would indeed seem to be a like-for-like switch: a hugely talented but frustratingly inconsistent international whose self-regard and PR savvy comfortably exceed his skill – and who is currently in a contract dispute with his club after demanding a massive pay hike.
The Daily Mirror and Daily Star run back page stories about Mario Balotelli, who will apparently be sold “on the cheap” in January after Manchester City chiefs admitted that “he is damaged goods”.
Both papers name AC Milan as the likely destination for the Italian 22-year-old, with an initial loan leading to a £10m transfer suggested. The Mirror’s report adds that Brazilian midfielder Paulinho – currently with Corinthians – will be brought in for £12m should Balotelli go.
City might survive without Balotelli, but it’d be a disaster for the English football media if the striker did indeed go: though his glory days of buying mopeds while out looking for ironing boards might be over, he’s still good for a couple of back page leads every week. So let’s just hope that the Daily Mail’s report – Roberto Mancini insisting that he’ll not get rid of Super Mario – is accurate.
Several of the back pages lead with Patrice Evra’s words on Monday claiming that Alex Ferguson “is going to sack everyone” if Manchester United blow their six-point lead in the title race.
The Daily Express uses the headline “Sack us if we choke” alongside a picture of Evra looking grim and angry. “I’m serious,” the player added. “It would not be funny, for the fans, for the players, for everyone.”
No doubt the blue side of Manchester could rustle up a few who’d disagree with that sentiment.
The Daily Telegraph’s big story of the day, and one of the main themes in the Daily Mail, is the end of the footballing world as we know it – based on a few incidents at the weekend. It’s such outrageous nonsense that our colleague Early Doors is getting stuck in, and we’ll tempt you in that direction with this asinine gem from the Daily Mail: “It has been a superb sporting year, but football’s only gold medal is for hatred… in football, wherever one looks, there is disgrace.”
The Daily Mirror reports that Newcastle will sell Demba Ba “as soon as the transfer window opens” after failing to agree a new contract with the striker.
Ba has a release clause of just £7m, and with the African Cup of Nations around the corner Newcastle want to cash in straight away – most likely to Liverpool or Arsenal – in order to concentrate on finding a replacement next month. Marseille’s Loic Remy is reportedly Alan Pardew’s number one target.
And finally, Paper Round chuckled out loud at this brilliantly ridiculous description from The Sun in a story about how Chelsea’s new boss Rafa Benitez has got Fernando Torres scoring again: “Boss Benitez is targeting Torres in every training session — reprogramming the once-feared bottle-blond assassin to terrorise defences by relying on instinct and not thinking too deeply.”
From here on, we’ll always feel a tiny burst of joy every time we see the “once-feared bottle-blond assassin” in action.